I’m not really sold on the book I‘m currently reading. It was recommended by a friend, so I’m giving it a fair go, but I’m 117 pages in and struggling to empathise with either the characters or the author. The main protagonist is from Yorkshire, but lives in London, yet any references to her life in Yorkshire are made as if written for a middle-class London audience. It’s cliched, dismissive to the point of patronisation, and I can’t get past it. Nor, given that the author is from and indeed lives in Yorkshire, can I begin to understand it.
Last month I was on a train from London to Nottingham. It was the Saturday morning of the Trent Bridge test match, and with each stop the train became ever fuller of blokes, ‘bants’ and beer-coolers. On a table nearby one set of lads were going through a newspaper’s football pre-season supplement, and duly began laughing uproariously at the fact that prior to this summer Huddersfield Town’s record transfer fee paid was only the £1.8million they spent on Christopher Schindler.
I mention both these things as they feel representative of a wider trait. A persistent want to other an aspect of the wider world we inhabit as being somehow inferior. For those absolute lads laughing at Huddersfield, take the lines in the book; ‘I’d eaten worse in Yorkshire’ or ‘she refuses to wear a hearing aid – “people will say I’m an alien if I go round wi’ bits of wire coming out of my head” – actually in Kippax, they might’. Bless their inferior analogue ways, their colloquial sayings and the fact they don’t have ludicrous sums to chuck ludicrously and some supposedly big name with ludicrous wage demands.
Last week I had cause to go into a London branch of a High Street bank to chase up the fanzine’s latest statement. Speaking with the teller, he asked what the account was for. On finding out, he duly asked ‘So do you support a big Premier League club as well then?’ I shook my head and asked who is team was ‘I’m West Ham’ he said, and so I couldn’t help myself. ‘Do you support a big Premier League club as well?’ I asked.
Of course, some people do. After all it’s inherent in our adolescence to want to fit in, so there’ll be a number of you reading this now who supported a Premier League team in the playground, hung onto that in later life, but still turn up at the Keepmoat for every home game. I’ve no problem with that. But I do resent the assumption that I must support one, and the notion that somehow the football we watch isn’t the real thing.
All this is, as I’m sure you’re aware, absolute bollocks. If anything it’s more real than ever before, particularly when viewed through our eyes, rather than as the image projected upon it by those who see a club’s drop from the Premier League as the same as an Eastenders character’s move away from Albert Square. For relegation read ‘moving to Manchester’, never shall they be seen again.
The past month has seen the majority of Premier League teams decamp overseas to play in pre-season ‘tournaments’ and ‘trophies’. Subjecting their players to thousands of miles of travel, unseasonably high heat, and matches against players who they’ll have to face all over again in just a few weeks’ time.
Last Friday the Rovers squad spent the day down Doncaster Market; a local club in a local town, meeting local people – kicking a ball about with local kids, amusing local shoppers by trying to sell local products from local stalls.
It’s easy, as a Premier League fan, I suspect, to scoff at the idea of heading down the local market to see your players, rather than watching a stream of them facing off with Paris St Germain in Beijing as they try to crack the Asian one. But, which would you rather your club was doing? Getting to know the town that they are often the foremost representatives of, or pitching up overseas to patronise a country’s own football offering, by proclaiming that you’re giving them access to something they wouldn’t normally get to see?
So, whilst the Premier League continues to spend its summers promoting colonialism through sport – flaunting its riches and cementing its self-promotion whilst pretending to care, like a kid from Eton on a gap year – forgive me if I scoff in their direction instead. Keep your cash cows give me a club captain trying to sell half a pound of beef mince to a confused shopper from Sprotborough.
Save a dramatic change in fortune, or the discovery of oil (or a seam whatever the current highest value commodity is in these uncertain times, fidget spinners?) under Cantley Park, we’ll never be in a position to attract players whose sole motivation is making more money. But then, why should we want to? This is our town, our team, and our way of doing things. I’d rather have a committed bunch of lads, who get what it means to us, and are happy to try and flog fish in the town centre, than a bored baller who nutmegs a full-back every sixth Saturday with seventeen flame emojis and no end product.
Money can’t buy the former, which is all the more reason to revel in it.
This article was first printed as the editorial of issue 89 of popular STAND fanzine, published 5 August 2017.
popular STAND prints six issues per season, and back issues and subscriptions are available anywhere in the world.